~ From Atlanta to Florida
We’ve been travelling since the end of November 2013, and we’ve done so much and seen so much, our brains and bodies are suffering from sensory overload.
We spent one night in Atlanta Georgia, to break the journey from Memphis to Charleston. As we arrived in Atlanta, it was cold and very windy. The dust blew into our eyes and we were tired. We couldn’t get to the hotel as there was so much construction, blocked streets and one-way streets. I left Chris parked in a one-way street, the wrong side of our hotel, while I ran in to find out how to actually get to the place. The friendly receptionist told me to drive down the one-way street, that’s the only way to do it, because of the construction! As I went back to tell this to Chris, we saw a police car doing exactly that. Follow that car, I said! With great trepidation, we did just that. Unloaded, parked the car, checked in and got into the room. The room was small-ish, but quite clean and comfortable, that’s all we require.
We did some checking on where to go and find dinner. I found a promising looking bar-restaurant that claimed to have live blues. We walked out a few streets, and found Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint. Wow! A great welcome, and great atmosphere, a rockin’ blues band, The Breeze Kings, good food, and moonshine! Suddenly we felt 100% better, and wished we were staying a few more days in Atlanta. We got chatting with the waitress, the bar staff, and some other customers. Everyone was super-friendly and happy to welcome us to Atlanta. We went to bed full and happy and slept well.
We had a long drive to Charleston, and in the morning, were happy to find a free breakfast in the hotel lobby. We had booked with airbnb again in Charleston, and found we were staying in a beautiful, huge home, right in the heart of the historic district.
We had a spacious comfortable room and private bathroom, and settled in. We did our usual online research to find a place for dinner and headed out. Beautiful old houses surrounded us on our walk.
Unfortunately our first choice of restaurant had over an hour’s wait for a table, so we walked on. We came to Hall’s Chop House, which was so reminiscent of London in the 70’s it was funny! Friendly greeting, a promise of a table as soon as we had ordered a cocktail, and so we decided to stay.
Looking around as we sipped our drinks, we noticed the “look” of the people around us had changed so much from those we had seen in Texas and Louisiana. This was very “east coast”. Dress was less casual, conversation was more urgent. It’s been so interesting to see the differences as we have travelled across the country. Dinner was delicious, and we wandered back to our old mansion, ready to see what Charleston had to offer in the coming couple of days.
The next day when we were in the visitor centre picking up maps, we were enticed into doing something we’ve never done, and never planned to do: we agreed to go to a timeshare presentation! This gave us free tickets to three different attractions, which we might not have otherwise booked. The timeshare presentation was fairly painless, and we moved on to the carriage ride.
I have to say, this is something we would normally have passed on as “too touristy”, but we got lucky. Our carriage driver introduced himself as Bones, and said he was the manager, and had been having a trying morning, so he decided to grab a horse and carriage and head out to the streets! Bones was a great guide as we ambled round historic Charleston. He pointed out attractions and interesting buildings, and had some fun stories. I’m glad we did that tour.
After lunch, we took the harbour tour. The narration was interesting, and the tour took us past Fort Sumter, where we heard about the first shots fired in the Civil War between the States. It would have been even more pleasant on a warm sunny day, but it was a fine way to pass an hour or so.
The next morning we planned to visit the Magnolia Plantation, on our drive to Savannah. The plantation house and property have been in the hands of the Drayton family since the 1600’s. The house that currently stands here is relatively small by plantation standards, as the original house had been destroyed, and this is the third one to be built.
We very much enjoyed the Nature Train tour through the very extensive grounds, which include swamps and old rice fields. We were delighted to see some large sleepy alligators, turtles and water birds and ducks of various kinds. Unfortunately the tropical rain that had been threatening all morning decided to give us its best, so we stayed on the covered train, and didn’t walk around the gardens. I think these would be truly beautiful and would be worth a couple of hours’ enjoyment.
I visited the old slave cabins that have been kept and restored to different timeframes in African-American history. It was interesting to hear about the “task” system of plantation work that was in place on the rice plantations. This gave the slaves free time after their working day, so that they could cultivate their own gardens, or rest. It seems that the plantation owner here, Mr Drayton, illegally taught some of his slaves to read and write.
After the Civil War, the former slave who had been in charge of the gardens, came back to work as a free man, with his former master, and restored the gardens to beauty. We learned about Mr Johnnie Leach, who lived in one of the former slave cabins, and raised his 19 children there after WW2. He gave his children two choices: join the military or go to college. Several of his children and grandchildren gained degrees, and are now running various aspects of the plantation. Mr Johnnie (age 91) stops by several times a week, to check on their work.
We drove on to Savannah in the rain, and found our rented garden apartment, which was quite charming. We were once again in the heart of the historic district, surrounded by beautiful old buildings, small green squares, and trees dripping with Spanish moss (which I learned is neither, it’s part of the bromeliad family!) That evening, we wandered out and enjoyed dinner in a local bar, the Crystal Beer Parlor. With thanks to Ben for pouring, and local, Tony for chatting!
The next day was St Patrick’s Day, and we had NO idea at all when we booked to stay here, that Savannah is the site of the second-largest St Patrick’s day parade and celebration in the entire US!
Despite the rain, we walked around the city, and enjoyed seeing the crazy people in green, drinking their beer. We watched the fountain in Forsyth Park running with green (water or beer?). The tall old buildings, with their balconies and hidden courtyards are very charming, even in the rain, and I can see the attraction of this city.
We are exhausted and overloaded by all the wonderful experiences we have had over the past few months. And so we’ve decided to spend 10 days half a block from the beaches of St Augustine in Florida. We will sleep, relax, update the blog a bit, and plan the rest of our stay in Florida, before we leave for Europe in April.
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